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The Myths We Live By


Franz von Stuck, Sisyphus

4,063 words

Dutch translation here [2]

Editor’s Note:

The following is the text of a talk Mr. Costello recently delivered to a small group of not-fully-red-pilled neophytes. — Greg Johnson

I have been asked to address the question, “what is the prevailing myth of the modern era?” In order to answer that question, we first have to distinguish between two senses of “myth.” The first sense is synonymous with “widely-believed lie,” as when we say “it’s a myth that eating fat makes you fat.” The second sense is more interesting. “Myth” can also mean a story, at least partly fictitious, from which a people derives meaning in life: according to which it understands itself, orients itself in the world, and defines its values.

So, here then are my answers to the question. If it is the first sense of myth that is meant, the widely-believed lie, then the prevailing myth of our era is the myth of human equality. If it is the second sense that is meant, then my answer is the myth of the Second World War. Now, please keep these distinct senses of myth in mind: obviously I am not saying that World War II never happened. Of course it did, but – as I will discuss in some detail – what we think we know about that war carries with it considerable fictitious accretions, and the saga of that war defines us and our civilization.

Now, this is a short talk and conveniently I don’t have to pick which myth I want to discuss, since these two are intimately – indeed, inextricably – combined. The myth of the Second World War serves to support, and to enforce the myth of human equality – and the myth of human equality provides the moral stilts on which the myth of World War II is erected. But let’s take them separately, at first, and then work our way up to seeing how they entangle with each other and then entangle us, so that they are now almost choking the life out of our people and our culture.

By “human equality” I mean the thesis not that human beings ought to be treated equally in some contexts (e.g., before a court of law), but the thesis that they actually are equal. This is the “all men are created equal” claim, which has been taken to mean that everybody is born basically a blank slate, with the same set of potentials. (What Jefferson actually meant by it is quite a different matter – but that is a story for another day.) Now, we don’t normally apply this sort of thinking in the case of individuals: all but the most fanatical egalitarians are usually willing to admit that some individuals are born with greater sorts of potential than others. In other words, natural inequalities exist between individuals.

What is forbidden in our society, however, is to take the position that, on average, certain groups may have greater potential than others. We are talking here about racial or ethnic or national groups, but also about the sexes. There is absolutely no logical reason for this prohibition. Groups are made up of individuals. If natural inequalities exist between individuals it stands to reason that members of certain groups may share certain potentials. And, further, it stands to reason that one group may share a greater average potential for X than another group. But this we are absolutely forbidden to suggest. So great is the power of the myth of human equality.

We are absolutely forbidden to discuss such matters, even though there is an abundance of scientific evidence supporting the claim that human groups are not equal in their average potentials (the notorious findings on race and IQ are merely one example). It’s bad enough that we must ignore or renounce science in obeisance to the equality myth. What is actually far worse is that we must deny the evidence of our senses, and refrain from generalizing from our daily experiences of human differences. As I put it in another essay [3], simply walking a few blocks through any major American city with open eyes gives one enough evidence to refute most of the liberal, egalitarian worldview. But the dominant, egalitarian ideology demands that we engage in doublethink: it’s perfectly okay to avoid walking through the hood at 3:00 a.m., so long as you never consciously admit to yourself or anyone else why you took a different route, and so long as the following morning you go back to spouting the approved platitudes about how it’s wrong to generalize.

I suppose it’s excusable for people to have believed in the myth of equality fifty or sixty years ago – especially if they lived in a small, remote, all-white town and never left it or even looked at the news. But the evidence against the myth has now piled up into a mountain so high it would intimidate Sir Edmund Hillary. Furthermore, everyone – and I mean everyone – has noticed this. And this is really the key to understanding the recent bat-shit-crazy antics of Leftists. They know that their ideals have failed, and that their ideology is at war with fact. But they cannot give up on the myth. At this point, at some level of their consciousness, virtually everyone has recognized that the myth is a lie. And liberalism – the central plank of which is precisely the egalitarian myth – is now essentially a religion. Not a nice religion like Buddhism, which allows adherents a whole lot of leeway in terms of belief, but a bad, nasty religion like Islam which ruthlessly enforces an orthodoxy, forbids dissent, and persecutes and destroys non-believers.

My father is a good example of someone who engages in doublethink. When I was younger and more foolish, I tried to convert him to my heretical views. It was not a smart move. Why did I even make the attempt? Well, part of it is that my father had always struck me as intelligent and tough-minded. In addition, however, it was evident to me from some things that he said and did, including some throwaway remarks of the “I’m not a racist, but . . .” variety, that he saw how things are. Where I went wrong was in over-estimating his capacity both for consistency and for self-awareness. Yes, his instincts were much like mine. But they could not be brought to conscious awareness without him feeling like he’d sinned.

It was clear from our interactions that my ideas disturbed him greatly, even though sometimes he said little in response. The only times I can remember him getting really upset – in one case getting up and storming out of the room – were when we discussed my views on the Second World War. What specifically ticked him off was my claim that the “Hitler wanted to take over the world” narrative was utterly absurd. I told my father that Hitler’s aim was to re-unite Germany by reclaiming territories lost under the Treaty of Versailles, which has been near-universally acknowledged as unjust. I spoke of the plight of the ethnic Germans in Danzig. I told him that Hitler did not want to “take over” all of Europe, much less the world. I told him that Hitler did not want war with England, and tried repeatedly to sue for peace. Basically, I gave him the full Pat Buchanan [4].

My father’s reaction was not just skepticism, it was shocked incredulity that quickly morphed into indignation and outrage. Clearly, I had touched a nerve. I cannot imagine his having the same reaction had I suggested, for example, that there were a lot of popular misconceptions about the Russo-Japanese War. And it doesn’t just have to with the fact that my father was born in 1934 and raised on a steady diet of U.S. war propaganda from the time he was seven or so. No, my father behaved like a piously religious man whose son had just said that there’s no God, or that the biblical account of creation can’t be true, or that nobody’s ever been born of a virgin. In truth, World War II is the founding myth of the world we have been living in since 1945. It is our equivalent of the Iliad – of the mythologized Trojan War. That epic shaped every aspect of Greek culture, and gave meaning to the daily lives of Greeks of all social levels. It is the central saga of Greek paganism, replete with gods and semi-divine heroes and larger-than-life deeds. World War II is the central saga of the modern religion of egalitarianism. It is the myth of the “Good War,” waged to defeat the bad people who would deny equality.

According to the myth, a Great Satan named Hitler – who was both insane and evil (never mind how that’s possible) – sought to create a “master race” through selective breeding and the elimination of inferiors. In order to fulfill his dream of a world populated exclusively by blond-haired and blue-eyed people (which isn’t actually how the Nazis described “Aryans,” but never mind), he sought to use Germany’s military might to take over the entire world. This way, the blond Supermen could reign supreme, and all other races could be exterminated. (Why the Japanese were willing allies of Satan-Hitler thus emerges as a bit of a mystery but, once again, never mind.)

Now, it doesn’t matter that we know that in 1939 Germany was not prepared for war on the scale postulated by the myth, and that they didn’t have the resources (including natural resources) to pull it off. This is just evidence that Satan-Hitler was absolutely CRAZY, and that he hypnotized millions of intelligent Germans into not thinking about any of these practical issues. So great was his satanic power to cloud men’s minds.

Why did Satan-Hitler host the Olympics in 1936? An obvious answer might be that he wanted to show off his new Germany, to promote good will, to gain acceptance among the community of nations, and to increase tourism. But of course not! The whole purpose was to showcase the Master Race: Satan-Hitler’s synthetic army of Supermen coasting to victory in event after event. He wanted to frighten us all and show us that our destiny was to be ruled by big, blond, muscular, beer-swilling German studs. This is why he got up and left his box when Jesse Owens won the gold (a total fabrication that has been debunked many times, but that seems to be a part of the myth that will not die).

In order to stop the giant, behemothy, juggernauty superpower that was evil Germany, three plucky little rebels teamed up to fight against all odds: the British Empire, the Soviet Empire, and the American Empire (which together ruled about 85% of the globe). When I suggested to my father that putting matters this way makes the myth absurd on its face, he just shifted uncomfortably. But seriously: does this myth pass the laugh test?

One of the odd, religiousy things about the whole World War II myth is that anyone who questions any part of it is immediately suspected of sympathizing with Satan-Hitler. This has led to the development of an elaborate, baroque mythology about the actions of Hitler and the Nazis. No reasonable person would deny that the Nazis were responsible for a great many crimes. (Though somehow most Westerners remain completely unaware that far more people were killed by Stalin, and far more still by Mao Tse-tung, the greatest mass murderer in history. But these were men of the Left – egalitarians – so they get a pass.) The trouble is that all claims about Nazi crimes, no matter how fantastic, are immediately believed by credulous, myth-addled Westerners. And any skepticism will produce raised eyebrows and suspicious looks.

Hollywood is, as you may have noticed, a rich source of the wildest Nazi atrocity fantasies. My favorite example is The Night Porter [5], in which (in a flashback sequence) SS officers (wearing the wrong uniforms, I might add) use a bunch of Jewish children on a merry-go-round for target practice! Now, if you relate this to a normie and say that you think it’s a bit implausible the reaction will, again, be gaping incredibility and a response like “That kind of shit happened, man!” But the basis most of the slumbering ones have for making such a claim is – you guessed it – other Hollywood movies. The recent what-if-the-Nazis-won-and-took-over-the-world TV series The Man in the High Castle [6] is so replete with absurd myths about the Nazis it is actually a laugh riot (“It’s Tuesday. We burn cripples on Tuesday”). But try expressing that view to normies and see how they react. On second thought, I like you: don’t try it. You see this isn’t about history. It’s about the central myth of a religion. To question it is to become a heretic: to align oneself with the Evil One.

In fact, gentle reader, we’ve now arrived at the moral of the myth. It’s those human targets on the carousel that show you what happens when people stop believing that everybody’s equal. Well, them and all the other millions dead as a result of the war. Actually, I should say that the moral is “this is what happens when white people stop believing that everybody’s equal.” Yes, it was white people – the Americans (primarily white Americans), the British, and the Russians – that defeated the Great Satan. But the takeaway is that there’s a little Hitler in all us white folk. And if we start making distinctions between people, we’ll go CRAZY again and start shipping “The Other” off to camps.

This is the whip that is used constantly today – and I mean constantly – to beat down any suggestion that, for example, racial differences are real, and not entirely flattering to everybody concerned. It is used to beat down any form of nationalism in countries where whites are the majority. It is used to beat down any claim on the part of those whites that their countries are for them, rather than for some other people. It is used to beat down any expressions of pride by white people – even though peoples of other races are allowed such feelings. Otherwise, you see, we are “Nazis”: we are aligned with the Great Satan, with the Forces of Darkness. And didn’t we fight an epic war to end all that? Isn’t it the current year? As a result, the only sense of “white identity” that can be permitted to us is guilt at being white, especially guilt at being the race that birthed Rosemary’s Austrian Baby and almost blanketed the entire globe in extermination factories.

The characters and events of World War II, it must be admitted, lend themselves to being mythologized and romanticized. Even when we look at the history of the war, and what led up to it, dispassionately and with fealty to the facts, it is clear that this story is filled with larger-than-life characters, countless feats of true heroism (on both sides), derring-do, hair-raising escapes, epic battles, and tragedy (in the Greek sense: see Downfall [7]). Even if we stick solely to the facts, it can be called “mythic.” The same could probably be said about just the plain facts of the Trojan War. The trouble is that we no longer know what those were. What we know comes from the Iliad, in which a substratum of fact has been mixed with much legend and mythologizing. The most obvious examples are the various interventions of the gods in the events of the war, and the claims about the parentage and careers of figures like Achilles. (And the Odyssey is obviously almost wholly myth.)

The same thing has now happened to World War II, and is firmly entrenched not just in the popular imagination but even in the work of academic historians, who would be afraid to challenge parts of the myth (even if they thought to do so – which is unlikely in most cases) for fear of being seen as unbelievers. Thus, not only are historians forbidden to question the most widely-accepted parts of the myth, they are required to approach the subject without objectivity. In the case of any other historical event, objectivity is required from historians. In the case of World War II, they are expected to pass moral judgment and to do so repeatedly and without restraint. Thus, in just about every book you might read on the subject you will find the author, at some point, reminding you that Satan-Hitler and his demonic hoard were “evil,” indeed more evil than anything that has ever been. This is a form of “signaling”: the author is signaling to his readers and colleagues that he is a pious believer in the myth. (I am pleased to say that in recent years some academic historians – such as Frederic Spotts [8]and R. H. S. Stolfi [9] have called for a new objectivity in discussing Hitler and the Third Reich.)

One can see the same pattern in TV documentaries on World War II: at some point the narrator will think to remind us that this is all about Good versus Satanic Evil. One of the more interesting aspects of this whole sociological phenomenon, by the way, is that it is only in speaking about the myth of World War II and the Nazis that people are allowed to make strong moral judgments. In any other context, if we were to speak of “good vs. evil,” we would be admonished that this is simplistic “black and white thinking” (or crypto-Nazism). If we were to volunteer that someone or other is “evil” we would be told that everything is relative, and that it’s wrong to judge. In the case of Satan-Hitler and anyone today who is judged to be of his ilk and branded a “Nazi,” there is literally no such thing as a condemnation too absolute or too extravagant (one can even advocate for physically attacking or killing “Nazis,” which we have seen a lot of recently). Letting your friends know that you don’t like Nazis [10] is one of the cheapest and most risk-free forms of virtue signaling: and if another friend signals first you’d better chime in with agreement, or your silence could be taken as evidence of secret heresy.

Of course, one could say that a dis-analogy between the myth of World War II and the myth of the Trojan War is that there are no gods or supernatural forces in the former. But I am not so sure about this. I have already repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that Hitler is not really regarded as human: the depth of his evil is so great that he really does, in the popular imagination, approach to being a Satan figure. There have been repeated attempts in cinema over the years to portray Hitler more realistically (Downfall being the most recent, and most successful example). These are always greeted by criticism that we cannot “humanize” Hitler; i.e., he cannot be portrayed as human. To suggest that Hitler might have been human and might even have been . . . gulp . . . likeable on a personal level (as many who knew him intimately have reported, even those who later denounced him) will be greeted with incomprehension and suspicion.

Mention must also be made of the “Nazi occultism” industry, which has produced a number of books and documentaries, and has inspired works of fiction (e.g., Raiders of the Lost Ark). That the Nazis had ties to occultism is a hot topic, about which (unsurprisingly) there are numerous myths. What is genuinely surprising (but shouldn’t be) is that some people take this a step further and seem to believe that the Nazis really did have sinister, supernatural powers. An example that is often trotted out and is really borderline supernatural is Hitler’s “hypnotic powers,” to which I have already alluded. Mention must also be made of the fact that some of the lore about Nazi atrocities has a kind of macabre, fantastic quality that is part Brothers Grimm, part Old Testament (e.g., Dr. Mengele’s wall of human eyes, infants being tossed alive into fiery furnaces, etc.).

In sum, we are dealing with the central myth of an absolutist, creedal religion that requires constant professions of faith. I need hardly point out the tremendous irony in the fashionable “atheism” of liberals (and others), and their claims that religion in the West is “dying out”: all these jokers repeat, each and every day, the catechism of the religion of human equality, praise the gods of the Good War, curse the vanquished devils, and call for jihad against those who shows signs of possession by the spirit of demonic “Nazism” (which keeps threatening to rise from the grave like one of those unkillable movie monsters). Really, the holy war against Satan-Hitler never ends.

As I have already alluded to here and there, the myth is being called into question. I have already mentioned the work of authors like Buchanan and Stolfi. Then, of course, there is the unmentionable David Irving, whose work exercises a subterranean influence on other historians, who will not openly cite him (e.g., Buchanan and Stolfi). And the myth is finally getting parodied here and there, sometimes in ways that are surprisingly bold. For example, the tiresome tendency of Hollywood to forever trot out Hitler and the Nazis as villains is brilliantly parodied in the Australian cult series Danger Five [11] which features a maniacal, scenery-chewing Hitler as bad guy in every single episode. Then there’s Heil Honey, I’m Home [12], about which the less said the better.

Yes, the façade is cracking. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of them is the increased awareness on the part of many intelligent people that the myth exists and is vigorously promoted to serve certain interests. Just take a look at the comments section on various sites, including the major papers, whenever another moralistic article is published yet again enjoining us never to forget that Hitler was the literal incarnation of evil. (The nadir of this was reached a few years ago in the moral panic surrounding “Nazi cows”: I covered this in my essay “The Bulls from Brazil: Aryan Cows? [13]”).

A lot of those same smart people recognize how intimately entwined the two myths are: the myth of human equality and the myth of World War II, and how the latter is used as club to intimidate any who would question the former. It’s therefore obvious that in order to fight the myth of equality, which threatens now to destroy the Western world and to genocide our people, we must combat the myth of World War II. We must become bolder about raising questions about elements of the myth. We must laugh more openly at the literal demonization of Hitler and the Nazis. We must challenge the idea that the Allies were pure and without stain (e.g., we must discuss the rape of countless German women and children by Allied soldiers). We must roll our eyes when yet another person is branded a “Nazi” just because he is sensible and willing to call a spade a spade. If the Leftists drop their Nazi bomb, and it fails to go off, they have been deprived of one of their most powerful weapons against those who question the absurd dogma that “everybody’s equal.”

In closing I will say that one of the lessons here is not that we should do away with myth, or that myth is a bad thing. Early on I defined myth as a story, at least partly embellished, from which people derive meaning in life. Myth is about as necessary to human life as food and oxygen. But what we need are salutary myths – i.e., healthy ones. The myth of human equality is a lie that sets men against life and cripples their minds. Its twisted logic demands that people like me – white Westerners – despise ourselves and our culture and voluntarily choose extinction. The myth of World War II exists, in the main, to support this lie and to serve, as I have said, as an unchallengeable weapon against all who would ask forbidden questions or hold forbidden views. As such, it is the most destructive myth that has ever existed – well, next to Christianity, to which the whole sordid, gelatinous mess of egalitarian nonsense can be traced. But that is a tale for another time.

Friends, we need new myths.